Friday, August 5, 2016

Gabon: Gabonese-Americans and others call for free and fair elections

Gabonese-Americans march from White House to US State Department urging US support to ensure that, after a half-century of one-family rule, the Ali Bongo Ondimba Government allow free and fair presidential elections on August 27th

On Friday, Gabonese-American protesters marched from the White House to the US State Department calling for an end to corruption and autocratic rule in Gabon and for increased US support to make sure that the West African country’s upcoming presidential elections are transparent, free, and fair.

The protesters join the recent call by a bi-partisan group of concerned Congressional leaders – including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman and Ranking Member, Reps. Edward R. Royce, (R-CA) and Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights & International Organizations , Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), and Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY) – who introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives “[u]rging the Government of Gabon to respect democratic principles during the August 2016 presidential elections.”

In their resolution, the Congressional leaders warned that “there is concern for misconduct in the upcoming elections, including the mishandling of voter registration, creating barriers to election day polling, and the integrity of the election results,” and called on the Ali Bongo Ondimba Government to “hold orderly, peaceful, free, and fair presidential elections in August 2016 in order to ensure stability and long-term growth of Gabon.

For the full text of the resolution, go to

There is great cause for concern that without public US scrutiny of the upcoming elections, many of the irregularities and stifling of the opposition from the 2009 presidential elections will be repeated. According to the Resolution, the “hastily organized” 2009 elections, following the death of President Ondimba’s father who had ruled Gabon for more than 40 years, “were plagued with instances of destructive demonstrations, human rights abuses, irregularities of voter registration lists, improperly guarded polls, unfair censorship of news coverage, and post-election violence.” To ensure that the August 27, 2016 presidential elections are conducted fairly, the Congressmen called on the “United States and other international partners, especially electoral focused nongovernmental organizations, to help create an environment which facilitates open communication, guarantees free and fair elections, encourages voter participation, and fosters a robust civil society.”

“What is asked of us for the 2016 elections isn’t simply to choose one president over another, but to create a new Gabon – a country that is stable and shared, a Gabon for All,” said Dr. Jean Ping, a former Gabonese diplomat, President of the fifty-ninth session of the United Nations General Assembly, and Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, who will challenge current President Ali Bongo Ondimba in the upcoming elections.

According to the US State Department, Gabon “is a key player in conflict resolution in the Central African region” and the US “share[s] a commitment to diversify and strengthen Gabon’s economy, expand bilateral trade, ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea, and combat trafficking.” While Gabon’s constitution calls for a multiparty system, it was amended in 2003 to remove presidential term limits, potentially allowing President Ondimba to continue his family’s more than half century rule over the country.

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